So if Rob Ford is to be ousted, it won’t be for leaning on folks to help buy football gear, then voting at council against censuring himself.
The Supreme Court of Canada has declined to hear a conflict-of-interest case on this issue, which has been eclipsed anyway by the more serious allegations now engulfing Toronto’s endlessly newsworthy mayor.
Let’s be clear: the conflict claim—which was argued by the celebrated civil libertarian Clayton Ruby—had merit. Ford did solicit funds on mayoral letterhead. He did participate in a council debate on the issue contrary to the Ontario Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. He did vote on the matter when it arose again at council more than a year later.
Still, the whole thing revolved around a measly $3,150, which council in 2010 ordered Ford to repay. So whatever the Act says, the resurrection of the issue always seemed like overreach. And it was undone, laughably enough, by council’s own failure to respect process: weeks after a divisional court judge found Ford in violation, a three-member appeals panel overturned the ruling, saying council had acted beyond its authority when it ordered Ford to repay the money in the first place.
For polticians, this is a useful lesson when it comes to policing each others ethics. Get it right the first time.
For self-styled ethics cops, it demonstrates the limitations of even a clear-cut, one-strike-and-you’re out conflict law: Canadian courts are powerfully reluctant to thwart the will of voters; in all but the most egregious cases, they’ll find a way not to.
And for Ford?
Well, he has a lot to worry about. There’s whatever city police know about his alleged crack-smoking video (speculation has been stoked by Chief Bill Blair’s pointed refusal to offer a single redeeming word about the mayor). There’s also Ford’s potential connection to an ill-starred cast living the neighbourhood where the now-famous photo was taken—also a subject of police interest. Oh, and there’s leading North America’s fourth-largest city.
Ford declared victory today, lashing out at his enemies in a brief rant. “They tried everything they could to stop me moving ahead with my agenda,” he said.
Really, the Supreme Court did nothing more than remove a small hazard from the minefield ahead of him.
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